Despite being small enough to squeeze into a jacket pocket, or a baggy pair of holiday shorts, the drop-proof and water-proof Nikon Coolpix W300 compact camera arrives fully loaded with an essential array of features. These include a 16 megapixel resolution from a standard 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor, the ability to shoot 4K or 1080P video, body integral GPS, Wi-Fi connectivity and, more unusually even for a waterproof camera, an altimeter and underwater depth gauge. This aids more adventurous users in not straying deeper than the already impressive 30 metres specified by the W300’s waterproofed capabilities, though in reality most users will be larking about in the hotel pool. Additionally the camera claims a degree of dust proofing, plus the ability to be dropped from heights of up to 2.4 metres and survive the impact. We still wouldn’t recommend getting sand in its innards, though.
Of course, given its status as a camera able to withstand a bit of rough and tumble, the relatively modest yet useful 5x optical zoom lens providing the equivalent focal range of 24-120mm in 35mm terms is internally stacked. At no point does it protrude from the body where it might inadvertently happen into harm’s way. The range here also means the camera is most ideally suited to landscape and portrait shots, the two most popular photographic subjects after all. The f/2.8 maximum lens aperture that goes with it is standard stuff for a camera of this ilk.
Here stills and video are written to removable SD memory card, a slot for which is provided under a lockable flap at the camera’s side, which opens downwards and outwards. The small lithium ion battery required for power is provided in the box along with a USB cable and mains plug, meaning that, as a cost cutting exercise the battery is charged in camera. There’s no separate mains charger provided.
Nikon W300 specifications
Sensor: 1/2.3-inch 16-megapixel CMOS
Sensitivity range: ISO125-1600 (extendable to 6400 in Auto mode)
Video: Up to 4K resolution
Lens: 24-120mm equivalent in 35mm terms, 5x optical zoom
Monitor: 3-inch, 921K dot resolution
Battery life: 280 shots or approx. 1 hour of 1080p video
Color options: Black, yellow, orange, or camouflage
Weight: 231g including battery and SD card
Nikon W300 rivals
Not every manufacturer currently offers a toughened compact, though when they do they’re now typically the only fixed lens offering, or one of the very few, in their brand’s repertoire. Obvious competitors to rival the toughened qualities and performance of the Nikon Coolpix W300 include the Olympus TG-6, and the Ricoh ‘WG’ family, such as the WG-6 and WG-70. Again these are all-weather, shock-proofed point-and-shoot cameras, with modest internally stacked zoom lenses, small-ish 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensors and a price tag that is nevertheless set at a premium compared with non toughened compacts.
Build and handling
Inevitably, given its robust nature with its square-ish edges and visible screws, the Nikon Coolpix W300 is chunkier than your average point-and-shoot compact of yore. But that’s kind of the point as, arguably, a toughened digital compact camera is the only digital compact camera worth owning these days, when for most of us a smartphone has taken the place of a bog standard, non-toughened point and shoot. Which is why hardly any manufacturer deems to make them any more. Fear not though, as the W300 is still compact enough to be slid into a jacket or rucksack side pocket, or squeezed into the pocket of our jeans at a push.
The W300 was originally available in a variety of color iterations on launch in 2017, including camouflage, canary yellow and regular black; the latter being the version we had in for review. It very much wears its practicality on its sleeve, or rather its fascia, in that core specifications are literally printed on its faceplate – the kind of info that would have at one time been communicated via a peel-off sticker – which is an interesting move by Nikon. There is not actually much to get a grip on here, save a raised roughened edge to the faceplate, roughened top plate and shutter release button, and six raised plastic bumps at the back to stop our thumb from slipping and sliding around. That said, a larger more pronounced handgrip would have affected the overall compactness and portability. Robustness yet practicality is clearly the aim here.
Due to the Nikon Coolpix W300’s lens being internally stacked and positioned at a top right hand corner, rather than dead centre, it is all too easy for a stray fingertip to poke into the edge of the frame if we’re paying more attention to our subject than our framing. Stereo microphones are set into the faceplate just below the lens itself, while we also get a narrow lozenge-shaped built in flash for extra illumination when needed.
As we’d expect, once activated and after a second or so’s delay while the rear LCD blinks into life, the camera’s operation is pretty much auto everything point and shoot from hereon in. The top plate control layout is simplicity itself, with controls having been pared back to a large, slightly raised shutter release button and nail head sized on/off button. There’s no shooting mode wheel here, so selections are made via a combination of shooting mode button at the camera back and on-screen menu.
The 3-inch, 921K dot resolution LCD is sufficiently clear to compose shots and capture a variety of subjects, though we still needed to enlarge portions of our images in situ to determine they were sufficiently sharp. Additional buttons arranged around a familiar four-way control pad on the back also include playback, more expansive menu plus delete buttons, as well as a means of switching to macro mode, bringing up exposure compensation settings, self timer and either activating or deactivating the flash, as desired. Generally, responsiveness is what we’d expect of a pocket camera, in being adequate if noticeably less zippy than a mirrorless compact or DSLR. Battery life is good for around 280 shots from a full charge, which is acceptable for its ilk if not spectacular.
Although at maximum 24mm setting images can suffer from a slight fish eye effect, simply zooming into our subject a little before squeezing the shutter release button acts as a simple form of in-camera correction/compensation. Also, even when conditions are overcast the camera is capable of delivering a surprising amount of contrast and depth to its JPEG images, ensuring that the results require minimal, if any, tweaking later. We also preferred the look of the Nikon’s images when compared directly with similarly waterproofed rivals from the likes of Olympus and Ricoh, meaning that, ultimately, the Nikon Coolpix W300 is still one of the best ‘tough’ cameras on the market right now.
Nikon W300: Sample images
Nikon W300: Verdict
Suitable for use by everyone in the family, from kids to adults, for shooting both stills and video this toughened point and shoot camera is very much a jack-of-all-trades for all weathers. While it’s hardly going to challenge the likes of the Nikon Z9 for image quality or responsiveness, the five-year-old Nikon Coolpix W300 still affords the opportunity to capture images in playful and/or adventurous scenarios in which we wouldn’t dream of risking a more expensive camera or even our smartphone.
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